Building Generational Wealth From the Ground Up
Hi, I’m Ashley. I am currently senior vice president, deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer for Endeavor—a global entertainment, sports and content company that is home to the world’s most dynamic and engaging storytellers, brands, live events and experiences, including WME talent agency, IMG and UFC. I am also a proud single mom to two amazing and active kids, a 14-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. Like most people these days, I wear many hats, and my role as a lawyer and a mother is only a part of who I am. I am also an infinitely curious world traveler, a passionate foodie and an amateur photographer. Rather than treat my roles and interests as separate, my version of work-life balance and living with authenticity means finding ways to blend all of those things into a life that works for me and my family. My life is fast-paced, dynamic and, at times, flat-out exhausting. I am very intentional about listening to my mind and my body when they are screaming that I need a break and prioritizing self-care because I know that I can’t give my best to my family or my job if I am not the happiest and healthiest version of myself.
I decided when my children were very young that I wanted to travel the world with them as soon as they were old enough to understand their experiences on our journeys. I view our trips as a vital part of the investment I am making in their education because each and every time we travel together, we expand our horizons and learn so much about ourselves and the world around us. Our adventures bring us so much wonder and the good kind of challenges that push our limits physically, emotionally and spiritually, which is what growth and life are really all about. As a proud Black woman, I am deeply committed to curating travel experiences for my family that inform us of the breadth of the African diaspora and help us understand the beauty of other cultures and ways of life. My goal is to raise informed global citizens who feel a sense of responsibility to our planet and ALL the beautiful people who inhabit it.
There are no two ways around it, traveling the world costs real money, as does raising children, and like most African Americans, I wasn’t born into wealth. I learned early on that it was my responsibility to achieve as much as I could in my lifetime to advance the legacy of my family and to create generational wealth and wisdom to pass on to my children and their children. This article is about how my radical pursuit of practicing self-care, building generational wealth and exposing my children to the wonders of the world intersected, leading me to build a custom home within the Naia Resort and Residences community on the incomparable shores of Placencia, Belize.
Belize is a truly magical country. It sits just below Mexico and has similar jaw droppingly beautiful beaches and so much more. Belize is also home to the second largest barrier reef in the world (second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) and incredible rainforests, jungles and rivers that are teaming with exotic birds and wildlife you would think you’d have to go to Brazil or Africa to see up close. The people of Belize are beautifully diverse and truly the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever met abroad. The mix of cultures, music and food is vast and rich, including a large community of the Garifuna—an Afro-Caribbean group descended from ship-wrecked slaves who intermarried with the Arawak Indians of St. Vincent.
The food of Belize deserves its own highlight because it is INCREDIBLE—only the freshest ingredients (most grown or caught locally) and phenomenal world class chefs. My favorite thing about the food in Belize, especially when thinking of my kids, is that while you can find amazing local dishes, you can also find the basics kids crave, like pizza—only it won’t come from an Americanized chain restaurant outpost. Belize has no McDonalds, Pizza Hut or KFC. (There are also no Walmarts, Home Depots or Lowe’s either). The food franchises tried, came and went, mostly because they couldn’t compete with the lower cost of local cuisine, especially when forced to import certain ingredients to remain compliant with their franchise agreements. No native Belizean eats a Subway sandwich for lunch and is satisfied, especially when the cost is double that of a local lunch of chicken or fish with rice and beans.
While Belize used to be a hidden gem, it is no longer a well-kept secret. The tiny Caribbean nation is currently experiencing an unprecedented influx of foreign tourism investment fueled largely by its strategic sustainable tourism program and major economic incentives, like low property taxes and relatively affordable building material and labor costs relative to most of its Caribbean neighbors.
Now that you know more about Belize, let me tell you what brought me here: 2019 and 2020 were truly years from hell for me, both personally and professionally. By the start of 2021, I found myself divorced, reeling from the sudden death of my ex-husband and father of my children, and searching for a way to bring healing, meaning and purpose back to our lives, all while working a job that was sucking the little life I had left out of me. Thankfully, I was also in a financial position to do whatever we needed to get back on our feet, and I started with traveling to places that gave us the peace and privacy we desperately needed to recover and regroup. So much of my existence to date, especially over the previous two years, had been driven by fear and survival instincts. I knew it was time to grow and to rise from a point lower than I ever thought I would find myself in life—and that meant taking leaps I used to consider out of reach. I ran some numbers with my financial advisor and realized that I was ready to invest in a vacation retreat for our family that could double as an investment property as a building block of generational wealth AND an international haven for me and my little globetrotters. Belize was near the top of my list because I had heard so many incredible things and had to see for myself. After filling much of 2021 with family trips to Costa Rica, Tulum, Kenya and Zanzibar, I made my way to Belize for the first time in October 2021, alone in full wanderlust mode, searching for rejuvenation. I am the kind of traveler who tends to want to stay as far as away from the most touristy spots as possible, even in a less tourist centric country like Belize. For me, that meant choosing Placencia, a quiet but dramatically gorgeous and welcoming fishing village on the coast, over the more popular isle, Ambergris Caye. I did some research and quickly settled on Naia Resort and Spa for my solo trip to Placencia because everything about it screamed rest, tranquility, privacy, comfort and unpretentious luxury—all the things I was craving. I never imagined I would end my week at Naia by buying a plot to build on in the Naia Residences community, but I am a firm believer in listening with my soul when a place, person or thing speaks to it, and Naia and its staff did EXACTLY that.
Naia was born from the vision of Stewart Krohn, a man who left law school in Michigan on sabbatical in 1973, sailed to Belize and never looked back. Naia in many ways is the culmination of his experiences in Belize. Not content to simply subdivide and sell parcels of land without creating something more meaningful, Stewart set about raising the bar on residential development not only in Placencia, but also for Belize on a whole. The main guiding principle of the development was to create a place that he would want to live in, as opposed to creating something that could generate income in a hurry, Stewart’s son and Naia’s director of residential sales, Aaron Krohn, explains. He also wanted Naia to maintain its natural beauty and allure, and, to that end, he made a point of not unnecessarily clear cutting or removing key species, like the red mangrove that provides critical habitat for juvenile marine species. Naia boasts close to a mile of Caribbean beachfront on the east and is the widest point on the 13-mile Placencia Peninsula. The community is bordered on the west by the Placencia lagoon, but just about every lot that is not on the beach backs onto one of our inner lagoons. “Owners here have access to the amenities of Naia Resort and Spa, including the main pool, gym, kayaks and paddleboards,” Aaron says. “In addition to this, owners also get 50 percent off hotel stays, 25 percent off spa treatments and 10 percent off food and non-alcoholic beverages. There is 24-hour security from a friendly and vigilant team (all unarmed) who keep an eye on things, so you don’t have to worry if you won’t visit your home for half a year. Homeowners who are interested in recurrent income also have the option to have Naia manage and rent their home on their behalf.”
The sales team and staff at Naia were so genuine, warm and helpful to me, and they instantly felt like family. I bought on the lagoon side because I loved the unique water view while still being right across the street from the beach. I also knew that building a little further back from the ocean meant much less maintenance costs and natural wear and tear on the property from the salt water. I wanted to build something dramatic and unique, but also true to the spirit and energy of Naia using as many local Belizean materials as possible. I also really wanted a talented, female architect and design partner to guide me on the journey. Naia’s staff helped me find Belize native Christy Mastry. Christy has over 15 years of architecture, design and project management experience and is the former director of Belize’s Sustainable Tourism Project and the former head of Belize Infrastructure Limited, a private company formed by the government of Belize to act as a public sector agency to undertake the design, construction and management of major capital projects across the country. Despite her laundry list of credentials, I chose Christy for my project mainly because of our immediate connection and shared vision. I knew she was the one when she told me, “Belize is for travelers, not tourists.” Christy loves Belize, and she gets me and my vision for making this home. Together, we just finalized plans for a beautiful four-bed, 4.5-bath, 4,000-square-foot (3,000 under roof, 1,000 outdoors) dream vacation home for me and my family. Once complete, the home will be a part of the Naia rental program and available for bookings to accommodate larger parties visiting Naia Resort and Spa. We just received the final permits, and we will be able to break ground while I am back here with my kids in June, and they will get to see the first seeds of the foundation for our dream being laid. Follow me on Instagram @justapage2u to see the progression on our journey to homeownership at Naia and tag along on our adventures around the world.
Any opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer. All photos by Belize-based photographer Benedict Kim.